Just Because the Prospect/Customer Requests a Proposal…

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I received a text message earlier this week from a senior executive that further reinforced what I’ve been reminding sellers lately:

You don’t win deals by scoring “obedience points,” and just because your prospect or customer requests pricing or a proposal, that doesn’t mean that it’s the right time or in your best interest to provide it.

Here is the text (with names and the service offering redacted):

“ [Person] told me he had just finished reading Sales Truth and turned down an RFP for a [Service Offering] because the customer hadn’t discussed the need previously. Within four hours the customer called begging for a meeting. When they met, the customer contact asked, “Why was everyone else willing to quote but you would not? You actually care that we get what we need!” We ended up getting the deal.”

Sales friends, consider this a gentle reminder that we don’t get paid to “do work,” send quotes or complete RFPs. We earn our keep by winning business, and often that means not simply obeying or acquiescing to the customer’s every wish.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of Sales Truth (Own Your Process to Stay Out of the Procurement Pit). I hope these words motivate you to stiffen your spine and stick to your guns (and your sales process):

…Blindly going along with a buyer’s direction simply for the sake of scoring “obedience points” is not going to help you bring in more business.

Too many salespeople wimp out on their own sales process and continue defaulting to the buyer’s process even when it makes no sense. This deprives them of the opportunity to execute proper discovery work, enhance relationships with the right customer stakeholders, and prevents them from being able to tailor their approach, presentation, and proposed solution.

I understand that for many salespeople pushing back against the customer’s suggested (dictated) process creates discomfort. We want to be liked. We want to be perceived as empathetic. We want to be helpful and responsive and respectful. We want to be easy to do business with. We want the prospect to want to work with us. Those are all great motivations and there is nothing wrong with our desire for a smooth relationship. But there’s just one problem with what I call the “Acquiesce Approach,” and it’s a biggie. Acquiescing to the customer’s strict process can prevent us from positioning ourselves as true advisers and consultants, stops us from differentiating our approach, and often ends up getting us commoditized as procurement lumps all potential suppliers together into the same box.

I hope the executive’s text message and these paragraphs above cause you to pause the next time you’re asked by a customer to follow a process that doesn’t make sense, doesn’t allow you to ensure you’re providing the optimal solution, or doesn’t give you a better chance of winning the business.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention and point you to three books. These first two have been around a while and were hugely influential in my thinking on this topic:

And in January, my friend Jeb Blount’s new book, Inked, will be released. You can pre-order it now. I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy and it’s outstanding, powerful, and practical. Put this one on your holiday shopping list for sure. It will not only help you own your process, it will transform your negotiating ability!

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